Diners can't tell the difference between tinned and fresh food

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Better or worse? Tinned food is accepted by many consumers, claims research
Better or worse? Tinned food is accepted by many consumers, claims research

Related tags Food preservation

A battle between fresh and pre-packaged food has ensued in pub kitchens for years, but now research claims millions of consumers cannot tell the difference between canned and fresh.

Most common tinned foods mistaken for fresh:

  1. Soup
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Vegetables such as sweetcorn, green beans
  4. Fish such as tuna or salmon
  5. Beans
  6. Custard 
  7. Fruit such as peaches, strawberries etc
  8. Curry
  9. Hot dogs
  10. Lentils/pulses
  11. Chilli con Carne
  12. Potatoes/new potatoes
  13. Meat such as corned beef or ham
  14. Meatballs
  15. Macaroni cheese
  16. Spaghetti bolognaise
  17. Ravioli
  18. Chicken in a sauce, such as white wine sauce
  19. Pie
  20. Irish Stew

One in four consumers taking part in a survey admitted to regularly eating canned food, believing it was fresh.

Almost half of those taking part said they had eaten meals where they struggled to tell the difference between canned and fresh ingredients.

Top canned food often mistaking for fresh include soup, tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn, tuna and salmon.

Those in the survey also confused canned custard, pulses and whole meals like chilli con carne for fresh.

Survey of 2,000 adults

The survey of 2,000 adults named baked beans as their top tinned food go-to, followed by tomatoes, soup and fish, such as tuna and salmon.

Consumers taking part in the research believed tinned food was no different from fresh and a third thought it acceptable to use produce from tins in a Sunday roast.

A spokesman for the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association (MPMA), which carried out the research, said: “Many people have a narrow perception of canned food, but it can be a great addition to any kitchen.

“Just because the ingredients come from a can, they can still be just as tasty and as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.”

As part of its research, MPMA gave consumers two meals – one made with fresh ingredients and one using tinned. It claimed many struggled to tell which meal was made with fresh ingredients and which was made from tinned.

The spokesman added: “Many said they actually preferred the canned food version.”

While many consumers are accepting of tinned food, 85% of pubs chefs responding to a British Frozen Food Federation poll accepted it was impossible to run a kitchen using fresh produce alone.

‘Chef’s perception’

The body’s former chief executive Brian Young told The Morning Advertiser​: “Consumers are looking for a good menu, ambience and service, and don’t really think about whether the food they are eating is from fresh, frozen or ambient. What it comes back to is a chef’s perception.”

However, fresh food producers would argue otherwise, highlighting the wide variety of products available when compared with canned and frozen.

Some pub chefs even advocate ‘growing your own’ produce to add extra value to plates, such as Jeanette Reid, co-owner of the Queens Arms in Corton, Denham, Somerset, who has been doing it for some time.

“It is picked daily to meet our needs and, if we run out, we can just go and get more or call the gardener and he runs up. If there is surplus, we make jams and coulis,” said Reid.

Last month, the British Beer & Pub Association called on the Government to tackle food inflation during the Brexit negotiations, predicting additional costs without the continuation of tariff-free trade​ could be as high as 46% for some products.

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